FAQs Keeping Pace With COVID-19 Questions

As questions pour into the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service from employers on the Families First Act and the CARES Act, both agencies are updating their respective FAQs.  Here are the latest updates:

 

Department of Labor:

DOL has added four FAQs, #90-#93, concerning paid family leave or paid leave. These are:

  • FAQ #90 explains whether paid leave requirements under FFCRA apply to temporary workers. A temporary service with over 500 employees is not required to provide leave to its employees. However, the business with fewer than 500 employees where the temporary worker is placed may be required to if it is a joint employer.
  • FAQ #91 addresses whether an employee who has been teleworking is entitled to paid sick or family leave for a school closure when schools have been closed for the past four weeks during the teleworking period. The DOL explains the fact the teleworking employee did not request paid leave during the teleworking period does not exclude the employee from taking such leave.
  • FAQ #92 describes what kind of documentation an employer is permitted to require from an employee who is seeking a medical diagnosis related to COVID-19 symptoms. The DOL explains an employer may require the employee to identify their symptoms and provide a date for a test or doctor’s appointment. However, no further documentation or certification is required. FMLA related leave requests are subject to FMLA documentation requirements.
  • FAQ #93 clarifies that workers who have taken paid sick and paid family leave due to a school closure may not continue to take paid family leave when the school year ends for summer vacation. However, the employee can take paid family leave on the basis that the child’s childcare provider or summer camp is closed or unavailable during the summer due to COVID-19.

Internal Revenue Service:

  • The Internal Revenue Service updated FAQs #64 and #65 regarding the COVID-19 Employee Retention Credit for how eligible employers treat health care expenses.
  • Notice 2020-29 provides for increased flexibility with respect to mid-year elections made under a § 125 cafeteria plan during calendar year 2020 related to employer-sponsored health coverage, health Flexible Spending Arrangements (health FSAs), and dependent care assistance programs. The notice also provides increased flexibility with respect to grace periods to apply unused amounts in health FSAs to medical care expenses incurred through December 31, 2020, and unused amounts in dependent care assistance programs to dependent care expenses incurred through December 31, 2020.
  • Notice 2020-33 increases the $500 limit for unused amounts remaining in a health flexible spending arrangement (health FSA) that may be carried over into the following year by making the carryover amount 20 percent of the maximum salary reduction amount under § 125(i), which is indexed for inflation. This calculation had been the basis for the $500 limit under Notice 2013-71, but the $500 limit did not incorporate the indexing. Thus, for 2020, under this new notice the carryover amount will increase to $550.  The notice cross references Notice 2020-29 for guidance on how a § 125 cafeteria plan may be amended to allow prospective health FSA election changes for the 2020 calendar year. Notice 2020-29 provides relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that, among other things, permits employers to amend § 125 cafeteria plans to provide participants flexibility to change health FSA contribution elections at such times as the employer permits through the end of 2020, provided that any changes are applied only prospectively.

 

IRS Reminder of COVID-19 Credits

In their latest issue, IR-2020-89, the Internal Revenue Service is reminding businesses of the three new credits that are available to many businesses hit by COVID-19. To recap, these are:

Employee Retention Credit:

The employee retention credit is designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The refundable tax credit is 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19. The credit is available to all employers regardless of size, including tax-exempt organizations. There are only two exceptions: State and local governments and their instrumentalities and small businesses who take small business loans.

Qualifying employers must fall into one of two categories:

  1. The employer’s business is fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during the calendar quarter.
  2. The employer’s gross receipts are below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019. Once the employer’s gross receipts go above 80% of a comparable quarter in 2019, they no longer qualify after the end of that quarter.

Employers will calculate these measures each calendar quarter.

Paid Sick Leave Credit and Family Leave Credit:

The paid sick leave credit is designed to allow business to get a credit for an employee who is unable to work (including telework) because of Coronavirus quarantine or self-quarantine or has Coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis. Those employees are entitled to paid sick leave for up to 10 days (up to 80 hours) at the employee’s regular rate of pay up to $511 per day and $5,110 in total.

The employer can also receive the credit for employees who are unable to work due to caring for someone with Coronavirus or caring for a child because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or the paid childcare provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus. Those employees are entitled to paid sick leave for up to two weeks (up to 80 hours) at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay or, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in total.

Employees are also entitled to paid family and medical leave equal to 2/3 of the employee’s regular pay, up to $200 per day and $10,000 in total. Up to 10 weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the family leave credit.

Employers can be immediately reimbursed for the credit by reducing their required deposits of payroll taxes that have been withheld from employees’ wages by the amount of the credit.

Eligible employers are entitled to immediately receive a credit in the full amount of the required sick leave and family leave, plus related health plan expenses and the employer’s share of Medicare tax on the leave, for the period of April 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020. The refundable credit is applied against certain employment taxes on wages paid to all employees.

How will employers receive the credit?

Employers can be immediately reimbursed for the credit by reducing their required deposits of payroll taxes that have been withheld from employees’ wages by the amount of the credit.

Eligible employers will report their total qualified wages and the related health insurance costs for each quarter on their quarterly employment tax returns or Form 941 beginning with the second quarter. If the employer’s employment tax deposits are not sufficient to cover the credit, the employer may receive an advance payment from the IRS by submitting Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19.

Eligible employers can also request an advance of the Employee Retention Credit by submitting Form 7200.

The IRS has also posted Employee Retention Credit FAQs and Paid Family Leave and Sick Leave FAQs that will help answer questions.

Updates on the implementation of the Employee Retention Credit and other information can be found on the Coronavirus page of IRS.gov.

Related Items:

FS-2020-05, New Employee Retention Credit helps employers keep employees on payroll